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Free Study Guide/Summary for On The Beach by Nevil Shute - Free Book Notes
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6. Dwight and Moira talk about the Pogo stick, which Moira is determined to find for him. In this passage it’s clear that at the same time they know they may never see each other again in this life, they plan for life to continue and for promises to be kept.

“ ‘Leave it,’ he said. ‘It was just a crazy idea I had. It’s not important.’ ‘It is important,’ she said. ‘It’s important to me.’ She raised her head. ‘I can get one for you by the time you come back,’ she said. ‘I’ll do that, even if I have to get it made. I know that isn’t quite what you want. But would that do?’

‘That’s mighty kind of you,’ he said huskily. ‘I could tell her you were bringing it along with you.’ ‘I could do that,’ she said. ‘But anyway, I’ll have it with me when we meet again.’

‘You might have to bring it a long way,’ he said. ‘Don’t worry, Dwight. I’ll have it with me when we meet.’ In the dark alcove he took her in his arms and kissed her. ‘That’s for the promise,’ he said softly, ‘and for everything else. Sharon wouldn’t mind me doing this. It’s from us both.’”

Chapter 5, p. 186

7. Sir Douglas Froude and other members of his gentleman’s club, the Pastoral, discuss the merits of a possible government ruling to open trout season early, to beat the arrival of radiation sickness on the customary opening day of trout season. In this passage it is evident that the book’s characters’ both deny the imminent end of the world, and plan to make the best of it. They refer to Yeoman Ralph Swain, who jumped ship on the Scorpion’s long voyage to North America, and was last seen catching a salmon in his own motorboat.

“ ‘A very bad suggestion, if I may say so. The fish won’t have finished spawning, and if they have they’ll be in very poor condition. You could ruin the fishing for years, doing a thing like that.’ . . .

A leading eye surgeon remarked, ‘I think it’s a very good idea. If the fish are poor we don’t have to take them; we can always put them back. Unless the season should be very early they won’t take a fly; we’ll have to use a spinner. But I’m in favour of it, all the same. When I go, I’d like it to be on a sunny day on the bank of the Delatite with a rod in my hand.’

Somebody said, ‘Like the man they lost from the American submarine.’ ‘Yes, just like that. I think that fellow had the right idea.’”

Chapter 7, pp. 236-237

8. Dwight and Moira frequently talk of the future, of Dwight going back to his family in Connecticut, and Moira going to visit him and meet his wife. They do this with a sense that the associations of their life to that point will continue, fatal radiation sickness or not. These places and people are more real to them than the notion that there will be nothing more after they draw their last breath on the earth.

“ ‘I’d like to come and see you in America one day,’ she said. ‘I want to meet Sharon - if she’d want to meet me.’ ‘She’ll want to meet you,’ he said. “I’d say she’s kind of grateful to you now, already.’

She smiled faintly. ‘I don’t know. Women are funny about men...If I came to Mystic, would there be a shorthand typing school where I could finish off my course?’ He thought for a minute. ‘Not in Mystic itself,’ he said. ‘There’s plenty of good business colleges in New London. That’s only about fifteen miles away.’

‘I’ll just come for an afternoon,’ she said thoughtfully. ‘I want to see Helen jumping round upon that Pogo stick. But after that I think I’d better come back here.’ ‘Sharon would be very disappointed if you did that, honey. She’d want you to stay.’

‘That’s what you think. I shall want a bit of convincing on that point.’ He said, ‘I think things may be kind of different by that time.’

She nodded slowly. ‘Possibly. I’d like to think they would be. Anyway, we’ll find out pretty soon.’”

Chapter 8, pp. 264-265

9. A similar conversation between Dwight and Moira occurs while they’re trout fishing. But here, Dwight is clearly saying thanks for everything, and beginning to say goodbye.

“ ‘This is such a lovely place,’ she said. ‘Can you believe - really believe - that we shan’t see it again?’ ‘I’m going home,’ he said quietly. ‘This is a grand country, and I’ve liked it here. But it’s not my country, and now I’m going back to my own place, to my own folks. I like it in Australia well enough, but all the same I’m glad to be going home at last, home to Connecticut.’ He turned to her. ‘I shan’t see this again, because I’m going home.’

‘Will you tell Sharon about me?’ she asked. ‘Sure,’ he said. ‘Maybe she knows already.’ She stared down at the pebbles at her feet. ‘What will you tell her?’ ‘Lots of things,’ he said quietly. ‘I’ll tell her that you turned what might have been a bad time for me into a good time. I’ll tell her that you did that although you knew, right from the start, that there was nothing in it for you. I’ll tell her it’s because of you I’ve come back to her like I used to be, and not a drunken bum. I’ll tell her that you’ve made it easy for me to stay faithful to her, and what it’s cost you.’

She got up from the stone. ‘Let’s go back to the hotel,’ she said. ‘You’ll be lucky if she believes a quarter of all that.’ He got up with her. ‘I don’t think so,’ he said. ‘I think she’ll believe it all, because it’s true.’”

Chapter 8, pp.285-286

10. Enroute to Moira’s parents’ farm before the fishing trip, Dwight is holding the fishing rod he’s bought for Dwight Junior, and plans to try out on the trip. He thinks of the world’s end.

“He sat in the back seat of the car fingering the little rod as they drove out into the suburbs, looking at the streets and houses that they passed in the grey light of the winter day. Very soon, perhaps in a month’s time, there would be no one here, no living creatures but the cats and dogs that had been granted a short reprieve. Soon they too would be gone; summers and winters would pass by and these houses and these streets would know them. Presently, as time passed, the radioactivity would pass also; with a cobalt half-life of about five years these streets and houses would be habitable again in twenty years at the latest, and probably sooner than that. The human race was to be wiped out and the world made clean again for wiser occupants without undue delay. Well, probably that made sense.”

Chapter 8, pp. 276-277

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